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A man stirs this mass until it is thoroughly dissolved. He then removes a plug, a few inches above the bottom, and allows the thin mixture of earth and water to escape. The heavier portion with the gold remains, more water is added, and the process repeated. When sufficiently separated in this manner, the pan or rocker is called into requisition to complete the work of parting the gold from the tenacious earth. The board-sluice was, for a time, an important auxiliary in gold mining.

A trough of rough boards is constructed, not less than fifty feet long, and often several hundred or even thousand feet in length.

Frieda River Copper and Gold Project, Papua New Guinea

The maximum width is one foot, and it varies from one foot to five feet in width. Riffles in the sluice serve to detain the gold which is also held by quick-silver. Through the sluice a stream of water constantly runs, the dirt is shoveled in, and as the soil dissolves and is carried away, the gold sinks to the bottom. Hydraulic mining is now extensively used.

Early in the miners in the Sierra foot-hills were generally impressed with the fact that some other mode of obtaining the precious metal must speedily be adopted. Many had made money by picking the gold from crevices with knives and spoons, but this could no longer be done. The earth near the water-courses had been mined over with pan or rocker. The sluice had been employed for ground more remote from water, but that means of mining had ceased to make a rich return.

Many had discovered by shafts and tunnels that very valuable deposits were to be found in strata deeper than those which they could readily reach. This machine was very simple. At this point the water was discharged into a barrel, from the bottom of which depended a hose, about six inches in diameter, made of common cow-hide, and ending in a tin tube, about four feet long, the latter tapering down to a final opening or nozzle of one inch.

Raymond, N. The hose made of raw leather soon rotted, not only becoming very offensive, but also utterly useless. Some sailors adopted canvas, and that has since continued to be used in many places, for conducting the water; in other localities iron pipe has superseded sail cloth. The nozzle has undergone many changes and improvements. Inventive genius was immediately called into requisition to perfect the instruments of the new method of mining, which was attracting universal attention.

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The nozzle received a great share of notice. Numerous nozzles are in use, but the detailed description of their various styles would occupy too much space here. The general form is that of a tapering metallic tube, which moves in a ball and socket joint in the metallic end of the pipe or hose which conducts the water upon the auriferous earth. But there were many items of heavy expense that appeared to only a few of the more far-sighted speculators. These were not slow to avail themselves of all the advantages which the new system placed at their disposal. Large Ditch Companies were organized, surveys were made, water rights located, and mammoth ditches, and extensive flumes constructed.

Miniature rivers brought in artificial channels, down the mountain sides from the regions of never-failing snow, were led to every mining camp. When a system of ditches was first instituted in , investments in it brought large returns. Water was scarce in the mining sections, from the fact that the stratification of the slate-rock had made springs impossible here.

A bountiful supply now enabled the miners to work their claims more extensively. But when one large ditch scheme was superseded by a grander, the supply began to exceed the demand. Immense expense had been incurred in the construction of uncalled-for ditches. Labor was high, and extravagant wages were paid by rival companies desiring to first reach a common destination. Costly flumes were built, which, owing to subsidence and decay, as well as to their frequent destruction by snow-storms, cost large amounts for repairs. Bad engineering also caused much unnecessary expense. The companies who had engaged in the construction of these works became bankrupt, with liabilities of several millions of dollars.

Ross Browne. Thus Ditch Companies became owners and workers of mining territory. In some parts of the State one Ditch Company has absorbed one after another of its less prosperous rivals until it has become a gigantic monopoly. This company has obtained possession of very extensive water privileges as well as other valuable property. We have thus far mentioned two of the important requisites of hydraulic mining; gold-bearing earth, and an abundant supply of water.

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The third indispensable necessary is facilities for the outlet and deposition of the great amount of tailings, or debris. As a ton of earth returns but a very small amount of gold, when we consider the large quantities of precious metal which has been obtained by washing earth, it will be evident to the most casual observer that the tailings which have been washed from the hill-sides down into the valleys and rivers, have been enormous in amount.

Here a question of grave import arises, which has led to long and bitter contentions between the miners and agriculturists of California.

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The agriculturist affirms: that prior to the extensive removal of soil from the hill-sides, many rivers of the State flowed through alluvial bottoms; that these meadow-lands were extremely fertile; that the washing of tailings in the rivers has resulted in filling up their beds, until in the overflows large quantities of volcanic debris, gravel, and sand, have been deposited on productive agricultural lands; that the lands have thus become impoverished; that the loss to the State by the ruin of these farming lands, and the destruction of the improvements thereon, has reached many millions of dollars; that the transient gain from the mines has been far less than the constant returns from the lands would have been had they not been rendered valueless.

He also asserts that large tracts of forest land have been destroyed, the State being thus deprived of much valuable timber; that the soil has been washed away to the bedrock in vast areas; that these tracts are useless for all purposes, and are rapidly enlarging; and that many streams, formerly navigable, have been filled up to such an extent as to stop navigation, and necessitate extensive canals and railroads; that the bays of California have been impeded by the deltas from these mountain streams, and in a comparatively brief period the greater portion of these bays will be useless for the purposes of commerce.

The miner pleads: that mining was the first great interest in the State, and that to which California owes its rapid growth; that as the miners came before the farmers, they have a prior right; that unless outlets are granted the mines cannot be worked, and the State will thus be deprived of many millions annually furnished by the hydraulic mines. He also claims that fine gold has been deposited in these alluvial bottoms until they should be considered rather as mineral than farming lands. The miner also pleads, that if an outlet for the tailings is denied him, his expensive ditches and other structures will be useless.

Careful legislation is required to adjust these counter-claims. The mining interests should not be overlooked, neither should the soil of the State be irreparably injured for the gold which is obtained by hydraulic mining. A loss of the many millions annually added to its wealth by mining cannot affect the State of California as materially as the permanent forfeiture of large forest belts, and of thousands of acres of valuable farming lands, with consequent loss to commerce.

Brazilian gold rush is destroying Amazon forests

We may well consider a few of the mechanical appliances used in hydraulic mining. Mention has already been made of the flumes, ditches, and iron pipes which conduct the water to large reservoirs, from which it is drawn in desired quantities, and conducted through iron pipe to the nozzles, through which it rushes with terrible force against the bank to be excavated. A sufficient fall from the head to the bottom of the sluice-box is an all-important consideration. This grade varies from three inches, in twelve feet, where an abundant and cheap supply of water is at hand, to nine inches, in the same length of sluice-box, when the supply of water is limited.

These grades may be considered as extremes. From four and a half to six inches fall in twelve feet is about the normal grade. In arranging the grade of a sluice-box many important questions are involved. These boxes are provided through their whole extent with riffles, as we have seen in the rocker, which catch the gold, or amalgam. An opening from fifteen to eighteen inches in width is cut in the bottom of the sluice-box. Over this a frame-work of steel bars, about one inch square, and an inch apart, allows the fine particles of sand and metal to drop into a sloping box.

This box has a pitch of about one inch in a foot. Through this box the finer materials reach the broad area of riffles, while the coarser gravel and cobble-stones are carried down in the main sluice-box.

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Then a frame of iron bars, which may be condemned iron rails, is made, extending beneath the end of the higher sluice-box and above the drop-box, into which the finer matter falls. The bars of the frame-work are placed parallel to each other, towards the cliff, and about six inches apart. The whole frame slopes at an angle of about 30 towards the cliff, over which stones of more than six inches in diameter may be rolled, while strong wooden sides prevent their escape in any other direction.

A sluice is constructed of boards resting on strong sills, laid four feet apart. These sills are usually four inches by six, and for a double sluice, about fifteen feet long. The sides are supported by posts, four by five inches, and strongly braced.

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The floor and sides of the sluice-box are made of plank one and a half inches thick. The paving of the sluice next requires attention. This is sometimes done with hard, flat rocks, standing on their edges, and so placed as to be least effected by the flow of water. These rocky pavements are from ten to twelve inches thick. Separate compartments, formed by pieces of stout plank permanently fixed across the bed of the sluice-box, from six to eight feet apart, prevent a great displacement of the rocky pavement, should any stone give way.

Above the stone pavement the sides of the sluice-box are lined to the height of about a foot with two-inch plank, to save the real sluice from the wear of the gravel. Square blocks, about ten inches deep, are also used for pavement, especially where the sluice is in a tunnel, as the work of taking out the pavement, for the purpose of obtaining the gold there retained, is, in this way, greatly facilitated. These blocks are made of wood and fastened together in sections, with a space of an inch and a half, extending across the sluice, between the rows of blocks. In hydraulic mines the work is done by the united forces of water and powder.

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